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Parcours des Mondes: Susan Moore selects her highlights of the event.

Parcours des Mondes in Paris--widely regarded as the world's most important tribal art event--is good at looking to the past while engaging with the present. While most of the exhibitors at this annual international event staged in and around the galleries of Saint-Germain-des-Pres (11-16 September) focus on tribal art--the lion's share from Africa - space is also found for contemporary expressions of traditional practice. This may be recent Aboriginal art or, as last year's honorary president, Javier Peres, demonstrated in the loan exhibition he staged in the Espace Tribal, the work of artists from across the globe who reconnect to their cultural roots through the prism of modern and contemporary art. Both loan exhibition and honorary president this year connect the tribal with the contemporary.

This year's loan show at the Espace Tribal (22 rue Visconti) is testament to the potency of the dialogue between artists and 'art negre' in the first decades of the 20th century. It takes as its subject the legendary exhibition of African and Oceanic art staged by the Dada and surrealist poet Tristan Tzara, the dealer Charles Ratton and gallerist Pierre Loeb at the Galerie Pigalle in 1930, with loans from artists such as Picasso and Derain. On display are some 30 pieces from the historic exhibition that have been borrowed from French private collections, alongside archival material including clippings from the largely outraged French press. According to the organisers of this retrospective, Charles-Wesley Hourde and Nicolas Rolland, the reputation the 1930 show acquired over time was due to the number and exceptional quality of the exhibits, but its relevance remains given that the aesthetic choices of the period continue to inform Western perceptions of the arts of Africa and Oceania.

New York gallerist Adam Lindemann, who describes himself as 'best known as a collector and writer on contemporary art but a rare exception in having collected African and Oceanic art for 20 or 30 years', takes the ambassadorial role this year. Certainly growing interest in these fields among long-time collectors of contemporary art has already benefitted this market by increasing prices and refreshing an ageing collector base for the very best material, but it has also made it less predictable. That said, for experienced and knowledgeable collectors, it also remains one where high-quality and important pieces may be found for surprisingly small sums.

For this 17th edition, the 65 or so exhibitors from 11 countries present a wide range of material--from the Americas and Indonesia as well as Africa and Oceania, and also including Asian and archaeological material. Several stage thematic exhibitions and publish new research in substantial catalogues. Some reflect the growing scholarly concern with the universality of the human experience, drawing parallels between cultural beliefs and practices through which man has sought to comprehend the world. There has been a spate of such museum shows. Still running is 'Beyond Compare' at the Bode-Museum in Berlin, in which African masterpieces from the temporarily closed Ethnologisches Museum have been integrated with great thought into the museum's outstanding collections of European art to address such themes as power, death, beauty, identity, justice and memory. Superstition and the supernatural were the focus of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford's 'Power and Protection' in 2016-17, which considered these themes in relation to Islamic art. And at the Musee du Quai Branly, 'Ghosts and Hells' (until 15 July) has explored the underworld of spirits, terror and supernatural creatures that have haunted the imagination in China, Thailand and Japan for centuries.

Fresh from the latter come numerous exhibits in 'Supranatural' at Mingei Japanese Arts (5 rue Visconti), the first commercial show of its kind in Europe. On offer are almost 60 paintings and objects representing ghosts, skulls or skeletons, and supernatural creatures. One highlight is an early 20th-century Japanese vanitas by Izumi Sukeyuki (Fig. 4). Carved in wood, a snake slithers through the eye sockets of a skull, complete with an articulated lower jaw and added teeth. The reptile's eyes are inlaid with horn above gold flakes with black buffalo horn for pupils, and with silver for the protruding tongue. Another horror is an ink and colour scroll painting of a ghost by Minagawa Tosen of around 190020. Here, an otherworldly male figure hovers beside a lamp and reaches out to someone unknown with a disagreeable grin on his face, blood dripping from his nose.

For its debut at Parcours, Galerie Kevorkian also considers the relationships between man and the natural and supernatural worlds. In its pair of shows, one staged at Galerie Meyer Oceanic and Eskimo Art (17 rue des Beaux-Arts), it unveils a collection of ancient bronze artefacts from the mysterious Luristan culture of the ancient Near East dating to the 1st millennium BC (Fig. 3). Its richly imaginative repertory of real and fantastical human and animal figures, mostly found in a funerary context, suggests a hybridity of form which could turn beings from the beneficial to the threatening, a source of life or death.

Forces benign and malignant are also apparent among the sacred objects brought together by Galerie Abla & Alain Lecomte around the theme of medicine and magic (4 rue des Beaux-Arts). Particularly striking here are the pieces ornamented with porcupine quills--a 74cm-high altar mask worn by members of the Komo society of the Bamana people of Mali; and a Senufo oracle figure, charged and encrusted with sacrificial materials (Fig. 2). Dandrieu-Giovagnoni (8 rue des BeauxArts) takes as its show's title 'La Condition Humaine'. At its heart are three representations of women--a figure from the Bamana people, an Ambete sculpture and a Loma statue.

Galerie Dodier (35-37 due de Seine) presents the anthropomorphic and zoomorphic, in the form of a polychromed Gurunsi dance mask from Burkina Faso and an architectural lintel from New Ireland. Here, too, is a double-chambered whistling ceramic vessel decorated in the negative painting technique (Fig. 1). One of its chambers takes the form of a seated man with long hair falling in ringlets, and scarification on his nose and cheeks. It comes from the pre-Inca Viru culture on the north-west coast of Peru, only discovered in 1933. Parcours des Mondes is a journey around the world, and its discoveries continue.

Susan Moore is associate editor of Apollo.

Parcours des Mondes takes place in the galleries around Saint-Germaindes-Pres, Paris, from 11-16 September. For more details, go to

Caption: Fig. 1. Vase, 400-100 BC, Viru, Peru, ceramic, 17.2x23.5cm, Galerie Dodier

Caption: Fig. 2. Oracle figure (kafigeledjo), early 20th century, Senufo, Ivory Coast, wood, fabric and porcupine quills, ht 85cm. Galerie Abla & Alain Lecomte

Caption: Fig. 3. Openwork plaque, early 1st millennium BC, Luristan, Iran, bronze, 13.3 x 13.3cm. Galerie Kevorkian

Caption: Fig. 4. Okimono skull and snake, 1914, Izumi Sukeyuki (1838-1920), wood, horn, gold flake and silver, 10x 10x 15cm. Mingei Japanese Arts
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Author:Moore, Susan
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jul 1, 2018
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